Bessie McCoy ~ The Yama Yama Girl

Bessie McCoy

Bessie McCoy was a popular singer and dancer known as The Yama Yama Girl.

She was born Elizabeth Genevieve McEvoy on May 17, 1884 in New York City. Her mother and stepfather were both successful vaudeville entertainers. During her childhood Bessie and her younger sister Helen performed as the McCoy Sisters. She appeared in numerous Broadway shows including Mam'selle Napolean, The Spring Chicken, and The Echo. In 1908 she sang "Yama Yama Man" in the musical Three Twins. The song became an international hit and made her a star. From then on she was called "The Yama Yama Girl". Bessie was known for her husky singing voice and her acrobatic dancing. The lovely redhead often performed in a clown costume. She had a small part in the 1909 film What's Your Hurry starring Mary Pickford. Florenz Ziegfeld was a big fan and hired her to perform in the 1911 Ziegfeld Follies.

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Bessie fell madly in love with writer Richard Harding Davis. He was married and twenty years older than her. After divorcing his wife they were married on July 8, 1912. Their daughter Hope was born in 1915. She took a break from her career to raise Hope. Tragically Richard died in 1916 from a heart attack. In an interview she said "If our love story were ever written it would be the sweetest one ever told". She returned to Broadway to appear in Ziegfeld's musical Miss 1917. Then she performed in the Greenwich Village Follies. By the early 1920s she was retired and living in a Connecticut estate. Bessie took her daughter Hope on a trip to Bayonne, France in the Summer of 1931. While there she became sick with an intestinal ailment and had an emergency operation. Tragically she died on August 13, 1931 at the young age of forty-seven. She was cremated and her ashes were given to her daughter.

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